When you think of shooters, you usually think of shooting. After all, it’s what they’re about. While most shooter titles focus on action and shooting, some of them also manage to tell a compelling story as well. Not every game has a great story (and some eschew story altogether), but these eight games definitely had some of the best plots we’ve seen from shooters.
Think we missed one? Tell us what it is in the comments!
The first Bioshock game remains the strongest in terms of story. The underwater city of Rapture pulled you into a world torn apart by the conflict between Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine. As Jack, you end up caught in the middle of these two powerful figures, pulled back and forth by their machinations. The morality system was fairly new at that time, and the effect it had on the ending was pronounced. Although the series’ twists have become predictable, the first game is still a perfect example of great storytelling in a shooter.
One of the most interesting things about the story in Metroid Primeis how easy it is to miss a lot of it. If you play the game through without utilizing the scan visor, it’s a stellar example of minimalist storytelling. But when you begin to scan the objects in the world around you. the story becomes infinitely more robust and fulfilling. It’s one of the few games to capture the feeling of being an outsider trying to piece together what the place you are is all about.
The Darkness series
If you’ve never played The Darkness or its sequel, it’s easy to dismiss them as power-trip fueled shooters, but in reality, they’re telling some great stories. Jackie Estacado’s story is about embracing one evil (The Darkness) to destroy another (his murderous uncle), and then living with the consequences of that decision. The second game doubles down, jumping between Jackie’s escapades and him waking up in an asylum so smoothly that it will make you question whether the asylum is the dream, or everything else. Despite having a great story, this series remains one of the most underrated of all time.
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Before Borderlands made Gearbox Software a household name, the Brothers in Arms franchise had already caught the interest of gamers. Based on the experiences of the 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the game tells the story of a squad led by one Sergeant Matt Baker. As the squad carries out their various missions, we don’t see the over-the-top action and huge set pieces of other shooters. Instead, it’s a tale of a real-life group of soldiers who had believable emotions and realistic reactions. Most importantly, their story inspired similar reactions in those who played it.
While modern gamers are more familiar with Human Revolution, the original Deus Ex has one of the most engrossing stories ever put into a shooter. Society is facing a lethal pandemic. With limited supplies of a vaccine, the world erupts in riots. As United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition agent (UNATCO) JC Denton, you’ll spend the game hoping around the globe, taking on terrorists, being betrayed, and fighting back against your betrayers. Plot twists, double crosses, and even multiple possible endings combine to make Deus Ex a story worth playing for any gamer.
Although its story is often overlooked, Metro 2033 is a great example of s shooter with a solid story. The post-nuclear war world is gripping, and the tale of one young man setting out to get help is compelling. While you’re filling the boots of Artyom, a 20-year-old survivor, you feel as though you’re really in that world, and the desperation and despondency of the story really come through. It’s not just another post-apocalyptic game, it’s a whole new take on the concept.
The first Half-Life game was one of the first to bring narrative to shooters, and the sequel only built on that foundation. Half-Life 2 put Gordon Freeman in a world that looked to him as a messianic figure, and then proceeded to have him live up to those expectations. The tale of the Combine and the Lambda Resistance is a strong one, and the whole game helps convey he feeling that you’re the last, best hope of the people against an evil tyrant. Half-Life 2 is filled with great moments, which is why it’s still one of the games people cite as “Best ever.”
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Probably no shooter has been more surprising in its execution than Wolfenstein: The New Order. No one was expecting a shooter that combining throwing copious amounts of hot lead at Nazis with a storyline that would actually make you care about the characters, but that’s exactly what we got. The torment of BJ Blazkowicz and his subsequent response – a Nazi ass-kicking rampage – fit surprisingly well with the underlying story of a man trying to regain something that he’s lost. The internal monologue that you occasionally hear brom BJ only reinforces his turmoil. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a stellar example of meshing shooter gameplay with a solid narrative.